SolidEnergy Has Built “Anode Less” Battery With Double Battery Life
The Lithium-ion batteries that we have all grown up around, have not changed much since. These batteries still rely on graphite-based anodes, which are restricted by how much power they can store.
SolidEnergy, a startup originated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claims that it has built an “anode less” lithium-ion battery, which has an ultra-thin metal anode that boosts the energy density of the battery to 1,200 watts-hour per liter. That is double the amount of graphite-anode based lithium batteries, which offer 600 Wh/L.
So what is this mystery metal whose magic powers no one has been able to recognize all along? SolidEnergy’s anode is a thin piece of lithium on copper – less than fifth the size of a graphite anode. It also provides the electrolyte which is safe and efficiently works at room temperature.
This means two things:
- Doubled battery life
- Reduced battery size
These two potential factors make it feasible for SolidEnergy to target the smartphones first, without any hesitation. At the moment, SolidEnergy has caught the biggest fish in the ocean – it is working on building a battery module for Google’s Project Ara, in which you can build your smartphone like you would with Lego blocks.
However, SolidEnergy is also in talks with other large smartphone makers, though the founder and CEO Dr. Qichao Hu preferred not to name any. “Think of the largest phone makers out there,” said Hu. “They approached us.”
SolidEnergy was able to get through the hurdles of putting together a workable battery prototype with the help of A123 Systems, a high-profile battery company that serves as an incubator for other battery startups.
A123 facilities will be used by SolidEnergy to produce enough batteries to bring it to the pilot stage for companies to test them out. However, once the company begins large scale production, SolidEnergy will eventually have to partner up with the already established battery manufacturers.
Though the company sounds confident about what it is doing, there are still reasons to doubt the level of success it would be able to achieve. One, the company does not appear to have an idea of what challenges a mass manufacture of high quality, thin anode batteries would bring with it.
Moreover, finding a battery manufacturer willing to build batteries with SolidEnergy’s materials will be another daunting task.
“What SolidEnergy is offering is not a drop-in manufacturing technique,” said Sam Jaffe, a principal research analyst at Navigant Research. “It’s like saying ‘we’ve designed a brand new car engine but you’ve got to design the entire car around it. Here you go.’ ”
But even with all of the obstacles ahead for the startup, it’s still likely the furthest along in prototyping this type of battery and getting it out there, said Jaffe.